Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Starting Pitching (was) A Mariner Strength

A hitters delight
I've heard many times recently that the Seattle Mariners have pitching depth. After screaming obscenities at the radio, television, relatives, or any other medium that this is coming from, I have to ask how one would define depth and who exactly occupies this chasm?

By my count, the Mariners have three starting pitchers (worth a damn) heading into 2012. Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, and Jason Vargas. One great, one good, one acceptable.

Looking at 2012, it's getting difficult to see how the Mariners are going to add much in the way of significant offense unless they make some kind of massive splash via trade and fill holes at left field and third base, which is a possibility, but unlikely. One place they could shore up some glaring deficiencies is starting pitcher, however.

First of all, let's just establish something about the candidates I've heard for #4 and #5:

Blake Beavan isn't a very good starter. Yeah, he had some flashes last season, but he doesn't strike anyone out (3.90 K/9 which is putrid), he doesn't throw particularly hard (90.6 FB average velocity), he doesn't have even average secondary pitches other than a pretty good slider. His ceiling is probably as a #5 starter on a decent team and that's just not someone I want to watch develop over the 2012 season -- and he doesn't really represent anything close to "investing in the future".

Anthony Vazquez was horrible as a major league pitcher. He strikes out nobody (3.99 K/9) and relies on pin-point accuracy, which he got away with in the minors and got torched by in the bigs, which led him to try to be so fine that his walk rate elevated to 3.07 BB/9 after being in the 1.2 range throughout the minors. He simply doesn't have the stuff to get major league hitters out right now. He needs seasoning or he needs to be abandoned.

Charlie Furbush has some promise. He has shown the ability to strike batters out, he has better stuff than the previous two mentioned arms, and he was also impacted by some bad luck last year (low strand rate, above average BABIP, 16.4% HR/FB) which is why SIERA pegs his actual performance right around 3.88 instead of his actual ERA at 6.62. I would be ok with Furbush occupying the 5th starter role if necessary.

Yes, the M's are probably inviting Hultzen and Paxton to camp, but it's not realistic to think they will make the team -- and even if they do -- make the team any better. They're great talents and yay, yay, yay for having them, but they're still kids and probably need to continue to develop in the minors.

But - there are some names that the M's should be pursuing to shore up the one or two holes in their rotation, and it could be done rather cheaply.

Chris Capuano

Capuano is the crafty veteran twin to Jason Vargas. The tall lefty doesn't throw particularly hard, but he misses bats with a K/9 of 8.13 (Felix was 8.55 for reference). You'll look at his 4.55 ERA and call me a madman, but the ERA predictors xFIP and SIERA both recognize he had some miserable luck, and peg him at 3.67 and 3.60, respectively. His strand rate was really high, his BABIP was a tad high as was his home run rate (although it's right around his average of 11.8%, so that's just his M.O.), so in many ways he outperformed his ERA and by a good sum. He's an injury risk, but he might sign a one or two year deal somewhere in the $5 to $6 million dollar range, with incentives.

Paul Maholm

The Pirates are unlikely to pick up his $10 million dollar option and while they might try to trade him to someone to get some useful body out of the deal, he may wind up being a free agent. Maholm is a chronic 2-win pitcher as he's been right around that level since 2006 (with one year at 3.2). He's another Jason Vargas clone with their K/9 virtually identical and while Maholm might give up a couple more hits than Vargas, he's also stingier with the home runs. He's also left handed, he can strike out a lefty pretty well, and controls the long ball off of lefties which would play nicely at Safeco. Signing Maholm would likely take more than Capuano as he's considerably younger, and he'd probably be fishing for something more in the 3-year deal range maybe up to $20 million or so. But if the marginal value of a win is $5 million bucks, if he delivers his 2-win season every year, you've done alright.

Jaime Moyer

Dave Cameron made the case for Moyer already over at, so I won't re-hash it, but it is a rather no-brainer to give him a minor league deal with an invite to camp and just see what he's able to accomplish. Honestly, what the hell. Bring him back.

A couple honorable mentions:

Aaron Harang pitched pretty well with San Diego last season, winning 14 games with a 3.64 ERA. The peripheral stats suggest he was probably getting a tad lucky and peg him more around 4.20 (xFIP). He's probably due for a 2-year deal from someone and it's likely that he'd get more money than he deserves because the more obvious stats are pretty shiny (wins, ERA) than the underlying ones. But if he lingered on the market and the M's were able to pick him up on a one year deal with incentives, he would probably like pitching at Safeco and there's a good chance he could be just as effective as he was with San Deigo.

Lastly there's always Hisashi Iwakuma, who was linked to the M's last off-season but the A's won the bid on him and then couldn't come to an agreement. Well, he's still looking to pitch in the Majors and he'll be looking for a suitor. It's unknown if he's likely to sign with a team in rebuilding mode, but perhaps Seattle's connection with other Japanese players will be some kind of a draw. He's 30, has a history of injuries, and his stuff isn't classified as particularly electric - he's a ground ball pitcher with great control. Some reports suggest he's going to be looking for $10 million per season over a three or four year contract, which wouldn't make any sense for the M's, but I figured I'd toss his name out there anyway.

Progress can be made on the starting pitching front while we wait for the kids to develop. I know we all want more offense, but if we can't buy run production, we might as well buy run prevention.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Ichiro Opting Out

"After lots of very deep thought and deliberation, I have decided to return home to resume my career in Japan.  I have had a wonderful experience competing at the major league level. I will always be indebted to the Mariners organization for giving me the opportunity to follow my dream.This was a very difficult decision, both professionally and personally. I feel now is the time to go home, while I still can perform at a very high level."

Remember those words? I do.

That's Kenji Johjima, right after he decided to walk away from roughly $16 million dollars included in the last two years of a (miserable) 3-year, $24 million dollar contract he signed.

It was a stunner, really. Johjima wasn't a very good hitter, and by most accounts, not a very good backstop either. His leaving freed up quite a bit of cash and it left most fans dancing in the virtual streets.

With this example in mind, how big of a surprise would it be if Ichiro walked away from his last season in order to go back to Japan? While I'd actually be rather shocked, I could certainly see a world in which it happens.

Ichiro had the worst season in his professional career in 2011, and whatever your opinion of him might be, you know he's arrogant enough to not like being embarrassed. He's lost a step, and he knows it.

He also knows that this Mariner team isn't likely to be very good in 2012, or at least not with their current payroll. Is he really all that excited about coming back to a mediocre team only to face constant criticism that he's not the player he once was? Maybe. Maybe not.

He's not going to get to 3,000 hits unless he plays four more years, and I'm not sure there's a team that will give him a three year contract headed into 2013 so he can slap-hit his way to a .260 average as a 40 year old. So what is there to play for? Ichiro must know that 2012 is his last year here, and he must know that his $18 million dollars is almost exactly what the team would need to sign a productive bat on offense.

Would he want to go back to Japan and play out his days adored by fans instead of playing out an albatross contract with a bad team and a media frequently using has-been terminology? I could see it.

If he did it, the M's brass would suddenly be legitimate players for some big name bats.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Michael Pineda, AL Rookie of the Year?

The staff at recently voted on all the associated hardware that the Baseball Writers of America will ultimately choose. The runaway choice for American League Rookie of the Year was the M's Michael Pineda (despite the stinker last night). It was interesting that Dustin Ackley didn't get any votes, but as Dave Cameron points out in the post, the voting on the AL ROY is likely to be a pretty interesting one as there are a lot of good candidates and nobody really emerged as the dominant choice. Had Lawrie played in more than 40-odd games, he probably would have been that guy, but hey - maybe Pineda will will have some hardware to show for it.

For what it's worth, I also voted for Pineda in the poll. Total homer.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jack Zduriencik: A Seattle Mariners Trade Retrospective

Fake hair. No hair. Funny.
So now we know that Jack Zduriencik is coming back for another year, and quite honestly I think this is super. In fact, I'd argue that you should extend the guy two more seasons as he executes his plan for the Mariner future -- a future that probably won't include contention in 2012, but hopefully 2013 and beyond. But we'll take the one, and see what the big bald-headed brute can pull off in the off season.

With the off-season in mind, I decided to take a look back at the moves Zduriencik has made and consider the outcomes. I'd like to stress that this really isn't a very fair practice -- you do what you can with the information that you have in context of your needs. It's the old 20/20 hindsight bit, but nevertheless, evaluating the trades of a general manager is at the very least, really quite fun. I'm not going to take a heavy saber-mided approach here and badger you with WAR and xFIP and all that, although it would make it a more robust inspection.

This has been done before, and done in far greater detail, so I'm not claiming dibs on this -- but it has been on my mind lately, and it seems pretty relevant as we start to think what the M's roster will look like next season, so let's take an extremely quick look at his tenure with the Mariners.

December 11, 2008: JJ Putz, Sean Green, Jeremy Reed, Luis Valbuena for Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Aaron Heilman, Maikel Cleto, Ezequiel Carrera, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas.

A three team deal with the Mets, Indians, and M's all exchanging a bunch of parts and prospects where the big name was Putz. The result was Putz got hurt, Gutierrez put up one of the most incredible defensive seasons in major league history, and Endy Chavez was actually pretty darn good before he got hurt.

Since then, Putz has gone on to be a damn good closer again with Arizona, Green was injured and is now in the minors with Milwaukee, Reed is now in the minors with Minnesota, Valbuena is up and down in the Indians system (mostly down), Gutierrez has regressed into a defensive specialist with stomach and oblique problems and little bat, Chavez is contributing with Texas, Heilman has been crappy for three different teams since the trade, Cleto is just now sniffing the bigs with St. Louis, Carrera has had some at bats for the Indians this season and generally stunk, and Jason Vargas is a decent back-end starter

Then there's Mike Carp, who is just now starting to shed that "AAAA" label, and might just be a useful major leaguer, even a good major leaguer. At .279/.340/.460 (batting average/on base %/slugging), he has really been pretty terrific -- and since his latest recall, he's been crushing the ball. These stats don't stabilize much over such few AB's, so we need more of a sample size, but Mike Carp could turn out to be the gem of the bunch.

January 20, 2009: Fabian Williamson for David Aardsma

Gotta love it when you beat Theo Epstein. Aardsma was a good closer for a couple seasons before getting shut down with a variety of ailments, he should be useful in 2012 if he can get healthy. Williamson is in the minors with the A's now, and hasn't been good at all.

January 28, 2009: Aaron Heilman for Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olson

At the time, it seemed like a really good deal, and now it's just a who-cares deal. Cedeno was awful for the Mariners, and has subsequently been a decent shortstop for the Pirates and Garrett Olson never panned out and is now in the Pirates minor league system where he continues to demonstrate that he can get only minor leaguers out.

March 29, 2009: Cash for Chris Burke

April 21, 2009: Chris Burke for Cash

Chris Burke has to feel a little like a whore. He's no longer in baseball.

June 28, 2009: Mike Morse for Ryan Langerhans.

Widely celebrated at the time, Morse had no future with the Mariners and the Mariners needed a warm body to play defense in left field. But whoooooo-boy would we like to claim takesy-backsies on this one.

Still not a good defensive player at any position, Morse is raking in Washington to the tune of .311/.366/556 with 26 HR and 82 RBI in 127 games played. Ouchy.

July 10, 2009: Yuniesky Betancourt for Derrick Saito and Daniel Cortes

Ridding the organization of the lazy shortstop, the M's picked up a flame throwing Cortes, who has been up and down this year, but constantly having the "future closer" bumper sticker slapped on him. Cortes has struggled mightily with his control this season, but it's hard to teach kids to throw 98 and he's still got the pedigree of a very good reliever. Saito is sitting in rookie league ball still. He might be hurt, I can't tell, and frankly it doesn't really matter.

July 11, 2009: Justin Souza for Jack Hannahan

A reliever with some upside, Souza is getting hammered in AAA in the Athletics system and Hannahan is keeping a seat warm for a kid by the name of Lonnie Chisenhall in Cleveland.

July 29, 2009: Jeff Clement, Nathan Adcock, Ronny Cedeno, Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell.

The latter part of that deal is pretty easy to sum up. Both players disappointed. Ian Snell defined disappointment while Jack Wilson endeared himself to nobody. Wilson now gets a shot at the playoffs with the Braves. Clement was awful in Pittsburgh and finds himself in AAA. Adcock is now with the Royals, mostly as a reliever, pitching, well, meh. Lorin is a huge chap at 6' 7" but he's still at high A ball, where he's pitching pretty well. Pribanic is a no-strikeout control kind of pitcher, at AA with the Pirates, and pitching pretty well. Cedeno we've talked about already.

I don't think anyone wins this deal, it was a batch of prospects for a bucket of veterans and hope and the latter flopped while the book remains open on a couple of the kids.

July 29, 2009: Wladimir Balentien for Robert Manuel.

Wlad continues to crush minor league pitching and continues to look totally confused by major league pitchers. He's at AAA with the Reds. Manuel was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox last year. He's no longer in baseball.

July 31, 2009: Jarrod Washburn for Mauricio Robles and Lucas French

After being downright magical for the Mariners, Washburn was terrible for Detroit and hasn't pitched since the 2009 season. French is in AAA sucking. Robles had a ton of upside. Had. He's been bad since coming back from elbow surgery. He's young and still has a good arm, but probably a lefty specialist reliever at best. Sigh... he was supposed to be the real gem of that deal.

August 19, 2009: Ruben Flores for Bill Hall

Flores is in high A ball for Milwaukee and has been okay, but he's 27 and they don't usually save the minors for right handed decent older dudes. Bill Hall was a nice idea, but wasn't very good for the Mariners. Jack then flipped him to the Red Sox for Casey Kotchman and Hall revived his career with a great season and signed as a free agent with Houston, where he once again wasn't very good and got flipped to San Francisco. And then there's Kotchman, who stunk it up in Seattle and then revived his career with Tampa Bay. Man, now I'm getting irritated.

September 16, 2009: J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies for Cliff Lee

I did a retrospective on the Cliff Lee deal a while back so I won't re-hash. I'll say this though, Aumont has a K/9 rate of 14.69 at AAA and the conversion to reliever seems like it's going pretty well now.

But yeah, this deal was ridiculous.

September 18, 2009: Jamie Burke for Cash

Something about Burkes. We like to buy and sell them. He was catching insurance, we sold him to Washington, and he's now out of baseball.

December 18, 2009: Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley

A disaster all around. Just a friggin train wreck of bad contracts, bad attitudes, and bad performance. Carlos Silva is currently getting checks from the Cubs and the Mariners to the tune of $12.75 million dollars in order to pitch for the AAA affiliate of the Yankees. I honestly would like to see him called up so he and Bartolo Colon could pose for the fattest-two-starters-on-the-same-team-in-history pictures. Honestly, that'd be about 600 lbs. of meat on two heads.

December 23rd, 2009: Brandon Morrow for Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez

Sigh. Yeah, League was an all-star this season and was an all around great closer. But this team could use a Brandon Morrow in the rotation not only this season, but more importantly going forward. Felix, Pineda, Morrow would have given the Mariners three young great arms. As it stands, with the trade of Fister, there are a lot of problems in this rotation in 2012 unless Paxton, Hultzen, and Walker are truly ready for the show.

Chavez had a tremendous 2010 season and followed that up with a pretty big flop this year. Young and raw and all that, but his ability to make contact needs serious work. And last I checked, making contact was the general idea of hitting.

January 7th, 2010: Bill Hall for Casey Kotchman

Already discussed. Casey Kotchman was worse than Jose Vidro.

June 27th, 2010: Russell Branyan for Ezekiel Carrera and and Juan Diaz

Nothing much to see here. Branyan wasn't very good, and the move barely made any sense. Diaz isn't much to get excited about. Already discussed Carrera.

July 9, 2010: Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, Matt Lawson.

Splash. It was a good haul, who knows if Jesus Montero was a better fit for the team, but this is definitely a wait-and-see kind of trade. Smoak has all the potential in the world, but flashed his hitting talent in fits and spurts. Beavan is a control artist who is a back-end of the rotation kind of guy at best. Lueke has a plus arm and ought to be in the bullpen to start 2012. Lawson is now with the Indians.

And Cliff Lee continues to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, but his future was never in Seattle.

December 3, 2010: Chaz Roe for Jose Lopez

Lopez fizzled out with the M's, and is now with the Marlins where he's actually playing okay. Roe still has some life left in him despite having pretty awful counting stats this season (no wins and a 6+ ERA). His K rate is up to 7.5 per 9 IP this year and he's been pretty unlucky in terms of stranding runners and batted balls. We'll see if he can become something useful.

July 30, 2011: Doug Fister and David Pauley for Casper Wells, Francisco Martinez, Charlie Furbush, and (later) Chance Ruffin.

Will have to wait and see how this one plays out. M's needed offense and they got a little in Wells who is having a decent debut for the M's thus far. He's also a pretty good defender. Martinez will be the wildcard in this deal -- a lot of people view him as the 3b of the future. Furbush is a back end starter. Ruffin should lock down a slot in the bullpen in 2012. M's will miss Fister though.

July 31, 2001: Erik Bedard and Josh Fields for Chih-Hsien Chiang and Trayvon Robinson

A way better haul than I ever thought we'd get for Bedard, Robinson could be the future centerfielder for the M's for years. He was hitting the snot out of the ball in AAA with the Dodgers and he's actually flashed a pretty good bat with the M's thus far. He's got some strikeout problems which will impact his batting average, but he has decent power and good speed, and while he has work to do in the outfield, he's regarded as having good potential as a defender (sans arm).

Chiang rather came out of nowhere to post a .340/.402/.648 line with 18 home runs with the Red Sox AA affiliate. In 32 games with the M's AA squad, he's been just completely lost though. So who knows.

Oh, and then he traded Jack Wilson to the Braves - who cares, right?

There you have it - I may have missed something, so let me know. But on the trade front, I'd say that Jack Z is pretty shrewd. There's really only one stinker in there, and it doesn't even stink all that bad, plus one that might leave a bad taste in your mouth when you visit Toronto. Bill Bavasi had so many stinkers, it was like being hot-boxed by Aunt Fannie. The recent deals are going to need to pay off pretty quickly for the M's to contend in 2012, which is probably asking too much -- but I have a feeling that we're not through talking about the trades that Jack makes. The free agent market ain't too exciting and if he's going to shake up this roster, it's probably going to come via trade.

I give the big guy a B+.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Falling To Pieces

It wasn't that long ago that Mariner fans could hang their hats on one of the best pitching staffs in the league.  Sure, the hitting was terrible (dead last in OPS in the first half at .621).  But the Mariner staff held opponents to the second lowest OPS in the league. Mariner hurlers held the league to a .643 OPS, second only to Atlanta's .637.  

Unfortunately the second half pitching regression has been obvious to anyone following the Mariners.  The chart below (courtesy of the Sporting News) shows the ugly truth since the break.  Numbers are through Tuesday. That's the Mariners down at #27, serving up an opponent OPS of .801.

Has the league caught on to their tricks, or was Mariner pitching not that great to begin with?  Can a staff led by Felix, Pineda and Vargas compete in the AL West next year? 

2nd Half Pitching Results by team (through 8/23):

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mariners Sign Wily Mo Pena

You know what, maybe he's not part of the future, but he has absolutely crushed for a year and a half at AAA and he raked in a short stint with the DBacks, although he didn't hit for high average. But regardless, in a Mariner season in desperate need of run scoring and lets face it, entertainment, we could use a whole lot of this:

It's a minor league deal, but I'd expect to see him up with the big squad in no time. Why not - I like this move.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Seattle Is Ready For The Real Thing

Sometimes is hard for Mariner fans to remember what winning feels like.  Real winning.  Not just a game, but a significant triumph.  This weekend the Mariners celebrate that lost feeling with a trip down memory lane.  Friday night's admission includes a bobble-head with Mark McLemore and Mike Cameron locked in a hand embrace.  116 Wins t-shirts for the first 20,000 through the gate on Saturday.  Remember the good old days? 

The 2001 Mariners led the majors in winning percentage the from the first pitch of opening day.  This surprised most observers as baseball experts across the country predicted that Alex Rodriguez's departure to the Rangers would send the franchise into a downward spiral.  But the arrival of Ichiro, and a monster season by Bret Boone (.331/37/141!), wrote a different story.  The 2001 Mariners boasted eight all-stars who graced Safeco Field for the mid-summer classic: RF Ichiro Suzuki, DH Edgar Martínez, CF Mike Cameron, 2B Bret Boone, 1B John Olerud and pitchers Freddy Garcia, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Jeff Nelson. 

As wonderful as it was, the 2001 season was the one that got away. The girl you never had the guts to ask out.  Sure, you had some great times together.  But when it came down to the moment of truth you couldn't close the deal.  Fast-forward 10 years and we have the memories of that bittersweet season and nothing more.  Seattle remains one of two baseball franchises to never appear in the World Series.  Vegas would probably give you even money if you were to wager on the team that will make their World Series appearance first, the Nationals or the Mariners. 

What would real winning look like in Seattle?  World Series winning.  It would change everything.  The entire franchise, and city, would change.  Imagine if the magic of 1995 lasted years, not just a few months.  To get a sense of what this would look like in Seattle you can look South, to our closest baseball neighbors. 

Giant Fever

San Francisco is obsessed with the Giants.  The franchise captured the heart of the city last season and hasn't loosened its grip.  It is hard to describe what real winning feels like unless you experience it.  This winter The City was so excited for the season to start you would have thought every day was opening day.

Winning looks like this (from AT&T Park, Opening Day 2011):

Giant Boats

Fan Floats
Hero's Welcome

When the home opener finally arrived, tailgating started 5 hours before the first pitch.  The atmosphere around the kickoff of the 6-month baseball season felt like a Seahawk NFC Championship game in January.  People were partying in Giant themed boats and floats.  Giant orange was everywhere.  Fans went crazy at their first fix of Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey on the stadium big screen.  The city shed tears, and their voices, when Brian Wilson raised the championship flag.  The celebration is still going.

How does it feel?

This feeling doesn't start and end with a game.  Winning, like The Dude, abides.  It can never be erased and is never forgotten.  The 1995 and 2001 Mariners gave us a taste, but don't confuse that with the real thing.  Seattle is ready to be transformed.  When will the Mariners be ready?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Prepare Yourself For Bedard Trade

So I was on record heading into this season that I was actually rather optimistic about Erik Bedard, writing about it here on the Log and over at He was kind enough to make me not look like a total moron and has gone on to post a 3.00 ERA and a 8.5 K/9 over 90 innings pitched. Yeah, he's on the disabled list right now, but it's a knee issue and nothing related to the part of the body that helps him sling baseballs.

He's been a huge part of any moderate success that this team has had in 2011, and surely they would be a much better team if he stuck around (and was healthy) for the remainder of the year.

But Mariner fans, we need to prepare for the Erik Bedard trade because it's very, very likely. Why?

  • The Mariners are not going to the playoffs in 2011. They're just not. I'm sorry. It simply makes no sense to hang on to your best trade chip when you have gaping holes in your organization and you're building for the future just because you want to try and win 80 games. 
  • He's on a one year contract, so it's not like we have him retained on the cheap for years to come. In fact, there's nothing that says we can't re-sign him in the offseason even if we do trade him now. But he's not an albatross contract, so that ought to drive up the asking price a bit since clubs won't be taking on some mess of a contract just because they're making a push for the playoffs.
  • This is really a best-case scenario when it comes to Bedard because he's been very successful and he's not hurt. Yet. Why wait for his shoulder to finally crap out again? Deal him now, wish him well, and he's someone else's training table problem. 
  • Yes, this is the "year of the pitcher" so there aren't a ton of teams that are dying for starters, but teams that are still in the playoff hunt that could really use a guy like Bedard for the second half include the Reds, Indians, Rockies, and Red Sox. I could even see a scenario where the Yankees get involved even though they really don't need him.

Now, what we get back is obviously the biggest question. This team as it's currently built isn't going to realistically contend even next year unless they get some major-league-ready talent soon. But the Mariners very clearly need offense, and they need it badly in the outfield, at catcher, and at third base. And they need them to be ready to contribute next season, with the goal to be competitive by 2013.

Erik Bedard - you've been really great this season. But keep your bag packed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thanks to our 3,000 fans!

We are excited to announce a milestone today. has surpassed the 3,000 fan mark on Facebook.  While our community has grown, our goal over at hasn't changed.  We continue to provide a fun environment for Mariner fans to cheer, vent and celebrate their favorite team.

For our next milestone we have our sights set squarely on Ichiro's career hit total.  1,278 hits in Japan + 2,333 with the Mariners = 3,611.  3,611 fans or bust.  Hopefully this will be a moving target.  Bring it on Ichiro! 

Thanks to you, our fans, for making the largest Mariner blog community on Facebook. 

Go M's!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Signs You Don't Walk Enough

Umpire: "That was ball four"

Olivo: "Yeah, so?"

Umpire: "You walked."

Olivo: "I did?"

Umpire: "You did."

Olivo: "What do I do?"

Umpire: "Take your base."

Olivo: "That one?"

Umpire: "Kill me."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Seattle Mariners Offense: Barely Better Than Worst of All Time

Go ahead, pray to Mecca. Do whatever it takes.
So we're almost 70 games into the season and the Mariners are still, shockingly, "contenders". Their pitching has been fantastic, and that it's not even really being buoyed by an over-the-top performance by Felix. They are, in fact, 4th in the league in wins above replacement as an entire pitching staff and have the 6th best ERA in all of baseball. But I think it's time for a little heart to heart about the offense.

I've read a lot recently about how the recent call-ups have breathed some life into the offense or they're bound to score more runs with these new bats in the order or how exciting these new kids are that swing as hard as they can at every pitch damn the outcome. Hogwash.

For as absolutely putrid as their offense was last year, it's not a huge compliment to say that this group isn't quite as bad. Because objectively, this offense is pretty darn bad -- and if it continues to be this bad, they're simply not going to be considered contenders unless a .480 winning percentage will get them a pennant.

I might get a little stat-nerdy here, but I'll try to give you an idea of what some of these stats measure if you're not familiar with them. If you are familiar with them, well, then you won't need the contextual information to know why it's not good news.

Let's start simple. They have the lowest batting average in all of baseball at .228. Even in their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2010, they hit .236 (which was also a major league worst).

They are simply not scoring runs, and if they could even be anywhere close to league average in runs scored, they'd probably be about 10 games over .500 at this point. Right now, they are tied for dead last in runs scored with the Oakland A's at 244. Yes, that's about 3.5 runs per game, which is pretty pathetic - and even considering how totally superb their pitching has been, they are -10 in run differential on the season. If the pitching ever begins to falter, things could get ugly in a damn hurry.

The Mariners have the lowest on base percentage in the majors at .297. That's actually even worse than 2010 (to be fair, it's practically identical at .298). They have the second worst slugging percentage at .340. So not only are they not hitting, not walking or getting on base via HBP/moxie/other, they're not hitting for any power to speak of.

Getting a tiny bit more sophisticated, can we squeeze some additional value out of the Mariner offense by looking at weighed rate stats, which might see something that those traditional counting stats might not? Well, the gold standard for a linear weight of total contribution for a hitter is weighted On Base Average or wOBA, which is designed to be like an on base percentage but, as Fangraphs describes it, it is "based on a simple concept: not all hits are created equal...(wOBA) combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value."

After that introduction, you'd think I'd have some good news - but the reality is the Mariners are dead last in the major leagues in wOBA at .285. A .285 wOBA might be the worst of the bunch, in fact - it is just awful. Awful, awful, awful.

Are the M's as a whole getting unlucky? One way to measure that is to look at batting average on balls in play, or BABIP. If you've watched enough baseball, you know that sometimes a player hits the tar out of the ball on four consecutive at bats, but each one goes directly at someone while another guy winds up with an infield hit, a seeing eye single, and a bloop double. One looks like Babe Ruth and the other looks like Babe the Pig while the latter actually squared the ball up much better. Well, BABIP likes to take all that into consideration based on hit trajectory - that if you hit a line drive, you ought to have a batting average on those hits a little over .700, if you hit a ground ball, it should be a little over .230, and if you hit a fly ball, it should be around .140.

Well, interestingly, as a team - their BABIP is .268. Their expected BABIP (based on hit trajectory) is .308. So they actually have been getting a raw deal on the lucky hop. This is something that should improve, but it's not so significant that it will suddenly make their offense chug like Thomas the Tank. We're talking about a handful of hits that fall in here and there, and while that certainly could have an impact on the number of runs they score, it's more likely to turn this offense from a 3.5 runs per game to 3.7, and that's not going to net you a ton of wins in the end.

I really hope the Mariners start to rattle the bats, I really do. I want this team to win. But I have this sinking feeling that their pitching is performing a little over their collective heads and their offense is not showing any signs of life. With the bats that we have, and the bats that we have to call up, what this team needs is, excuse my French, a shit-pile of luck -- bounces like this one day in and day out. They need to turn that BABIP into about .330 - balls falling in and rolling past gloves in ridiculous ways. We need players to contribute in ways that are totally unexpected and probably entirely unsustainable. But the team needs some good old fashioned magic.

To be this far into the season and only be 1 game back of first is just awesome and it makes the team fun to follow. And I'd really rather that it doesn't end. Maybe the M's don't win the West, but how about if they could figure out how to pull together 84 wins and keep it interesting and entertaining? May the baseball Gods smile on you, Seattle, and bring you ridiculous offensive luck.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

An Interview with Jack Perconte

You may have noticed The Log uses the image of Jack Perconte as our general moniker here and on our Facebook account. You might even have wondered why.  

There's no concrete reason - but I can give you a couple that at least contributed to the choice. First of all, it's just a sweet picture, admit it. But secondly - I remember watching Jack Perconte at the plate, with his hands choked up on the bat about ten inches, just hacking like mad trying to put the ball in play rather than trying to launch it over a Kingdome wall. Jack Perconte was listed at 5' 10" and 160 lbs. I'm not sure what was above his locker but it sure as hell could have said "Nosce te ipsum" because there's probably no other player that better utilized the notion of "know thyself". Perconte was no-nonsene and about as blue collar as they get on the field, and he was easy to root for. 

I was recently contacted by writer Arne Christensen who interviewed Perconte and we agreed that his retrospective and "where is he now" would be a lovely fit for the Mariner Log. Thanks for the great piece, Arne! 


The mid-1980s Seattle Mariners were easy to ignore, playing sub-.500 baseball inside a dome in a distant corner of the U.S., with no greater star than Mark Langston. Their second baseman, Jack Perconte, had starred with the Dodgers’ AAA farm team, the Albuquerque Dukes, from 1979 through 1981. 

The Dukes are remembered as one of the great juggernauts of the Pacific Coast League, especially for their 94-38 1981 squad, for which Perconte hit .346 and stole 45 bases. Perconte won PCL titles with Albuquerque in ’80 and ’81, and also picked up a World Series ring in ’81 by playing a few weeks for the big league club in Los Angeles late in the year. 

He said of playing AAA ball all through the mid-season major league strike of 1981, and its impact on the Albuquerque team, “I believe it did help because with nowhere to go (no big league call up possibilities) everyone just settled in and played ball. We were so loaded with talent, that we actually received some notoriety from the Los Angeles and national press. Additionally, the Dodgers and other ball clubs sent out scouting personnel to see us that wouldn’t have been available if the big club was playing – people like Tommy Lasorda made the rounds so we felt like we were being showcased more than we normally would have been.”

Still, his greatest memories come from that time under Seattle’s Kingdome. The reason is simple: Perconte’s 1984 and 1985 seasons there were his only two as a big league starter. As he explained, “ballplayers enjoy parks that they play well in and dislike parks that they struggle in.”  He ranked tenth among A.L. leaders in hits in 1984, with 180, and seventh and eighth in steals in ’84 and ’85, with 29 and 31. 

They were not years filled with Mariner glory, but on September 1, 1985, Perconte nearly became one of the few dozen major leaguers to get six hits in a nine-inning game. Bidding for his sixth single of the day in the ninth inning in Baltimore, Perconte’s sharply hit grounder to third instead became a double play. 

He said of the game and his memory of it, “Show me a player who wants to avoid that sort of nostalgia and I will show you a liar. Just kidding, but some memories like that day are very vivid. I don’t remember each and every hit but it was definitely a day where I felt ‘in the zone’ and those in the zone days were very few and far between for me.  I don’t recall my approach being much different. It just felt like the ball was in slow motion and my confidence was sky high.

“I actually consider my greatest day in baseball, on a personal level, to be my final game of the 1984 season. Although going only 1 for 4, the one was my 180th hit of the season and against Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. That one hit (a double) tied the Mariner single season hit record at the time, and coming off such a pitcher makes it my greatest day in major league baseball.”

The Dodgers had traded Perconte and Albuquerque teammate Rick Sutcliffe to the Indians after the ’81 season, and he spent parts of 1982 and 1983 in Cleveland. Perconte, who grew up in Joliet, on the edge of the southwest Chicago suburbs, returned to Chicagoland to finish his MLB career with the ’86 White Sox.

Upon retirement in 1987, he opened Jack Perconte's Sports Academy in Naperville, about 20 miles west of the Loop, and ran the academy for two decades before becoming a private baseball coach. After glancing at this resume, you suspect that a man who’s made his living from baseball for three decades is going to be a pure jock, even after noticing that he’s written two instructional books, The Making of a Hitter and Raising an Athlete, and written extensively online about baseball and how to teach it.

Well: Perconte is perhaps the only major leaguer ever to be married to an ordained Methodist minister, Linda (still his wife, and mother of his three adult children), and he graduated summa cum laude from Murray State University, with a b.s. in sociology. Talking recently about his playing days, he acknowledged being “a little short of confidence my whole career” and added,I did not possess great major league hands.” The perspective provided by Perconte’s education, along with his status as a 5-foot-10, 160-pound player who walked onto the Murray State team and weighed 100 pounds as a high school freshman, kept him from getting a big leaguer’s ego. 

The contrast between the arrogance of the typical pro athlete and Perconte’s personality extends to his memory of “feeling insecurity over whether I belonged and could succeed in the majors” when coming to Seattle in 1984, four years after his big-league debut. 

Perconte said of the reason for his breakthrough that year, “I was basically obsessed with proving I could play in the bigs. I was able to concentrate through my lack of confidence and was able to maintain focus day in and day out.” From his playing days onward he’s credited hard work and mastery of the fundamentals, not natural ability or strength, with elevating his game to the major league level.

Perconte now lives in Lisle, Illinois, without the fame, controversy, and critics who have accompanied ex-teammate and longtime friend Sutcliffe and Harold Reynolds, who replaced him at second in Seattle, in their careers under the studio lights at ESPN and the MLB network.  He said of his nearly 25 years of teaching the game’s psychological and physical elements to children through his books and personal lessons, “I feel like one of the most fortunate former pro athletes because I found my passion in life of helping youth play baseball and softball. I often tell people that I am qualified to teach the game because at one time or another I made every mistake there is in baseball, so I can teach from experience as well as from all the study I have put into it over the years. Baseball, maybe more than other sport, is a game of failure, so, from experience at the highest level, I can help kids deal with failing, which often puts them on their way to reaching their potential.”

Arne Christensen runs a site about the ’95 Mariners. He’s talked with Perconte before, about playing in the Kingdome and about his playing days in other extinct ballparks.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

If Jason Vargas Were Beer

You will do my bidding
When I think of Jason Vargas, I think of the sixer of Red Hook that someone inevitably left in my fridge after entertaining. It's always kind of there, I don't really want to go to it if I don't have to, every time I open the fridge, I pray there are better, stronger, options for my taste buds. And yet, about once a week because of scarcity, I go to it, reluctantly. And then it's usually not half bad and I sometimes even think about another. But then I go to the store, buy some Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Ninkasi Total Domination IPA, or maybe some BridgePort Hop Czar and I forget about my Red Hook for another several days.

That's Jason Vargas.

And yet, inexplicably (well, hopefully somewhat explainable), Jason Vargas is turning into...well, Diamond Knot Industrial IPA? A new local blue-collar-ish tasty option?

To date, Vargas has a sparkling 3.39 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, he's walking fewer batters per start than his career average, and he's striking guys out at a rate well above his career average at 6.33 K's/9 - not to mention the 9 he K'd last night versus the California Angels of the greater Los Angeles-Anaheim-area-go-Disney team. This is something to be pretty excited about, actually. But before I get too jazzed, let's drill down a little into the data to see just what the heck is going on with Vargas and his success.

First of all, Vargas has only been roughed up twice this year - once by the suddenly feared Indians and once by (cough, cough) Oakland. Other than that, he's had 6 either stellar or extremely good starts. That's not even giving him credit for beating Boston in Boston.

One very clear thing is helping Vargas, and that is avoiding the long ball and keeping the ball on the ground at a greater rate. His career ground ball to flyball ratio is .76 and this year he's nearing a one-to-one ratio at .95, seeing his ground ball % go from 36% last year to 41% this year. The important thing here is the concomitant drop in fly balls as his FB% has dipped from 47% to 43.3%, and somewhat related is the drop in home runs allowed per fly ball going from a career 7.8% down to 5.2%.

This may not seem like that big of a change, but for a pitcher not possessing blow-you-away-stuff, these little tweaks are significant. How he is doing it is another story.

Vargas has apparently added a new pitch to his repertoire - the cut fastball. Now, you might not be a pitching coach or have any knowledge whatsoever about what pitches do (other than that really super duper fun looking knuckler!) but the cut fastball is kind of a funny pitch. You take several miles per hour off your fastball, hold it like a four seamer, but if you put all the pressure on the side with your middle finger, and voila - you have a cut fastball. For right handed pitchers, it will move in on left handed batters and for lefties it will move in on right handed batters. Good ones sink a little too. They're effective if you have a decent four seam fastball and good location - because when you throw it, it looks exactly the same and then, whoosh, late movement. The cutter is why Mariano Rivera has dominated for so long.

Watch the highlights from his start here. The second strikeout, which came against strikeout machine Bourjos, was on a cut fastball. Torii Hunter's K was on a cut fastball. Mathis struck out on a cut fastball. Then you'll notice later in the game, he started going to his change away and started really confusing right handed hitters.Why this is so important is this:

.272 batting average, .443 slugging percentage, 1.82 K/BB ratio, 1.14 HR/9, 5.86 K/9, and 4.86 xFIP
.230 batting average, .333 slugging percentage, 2.83 K/BB ratio,  .81 HR/9, 6.90 K/9, and 3.89 xFIP

The top is his career versus righties and the bottom is 2011. He's also been more effective vs. lefties so far but considering they throw mostly right handed hitters at him (180 righties versus 59 lefties in total batters faced this year), how he performs versus right handed hitters is going to dictate his success. Right now, he's doing quite nicely.

We are just 9 starts into the year, and the "book" on Vargas will certainly be adjusted as teams start to figure out his new repertoire and where he likes to throw his pitches, so Vargas will also have to mix things up as the season wears on. But I'll recognize now that Vargas is a big part of any success this might have in the future, and his development as a pitcher has surprised me.

So Jason Vargas, you are no longer that unwelcome Red Hook in my fridge. I'm not sure what you are, but it's high time I start giving you more respect.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Michael Pineda: A Closer Look

I'm scared shitless just looking at this
So one of the obvious bright spots in this rather dismal season thus far is the emergence of Michael Pineda as what appears to be a bona fide ace in the making. He is 3-1 with a  1.78 ERA, and responsible for just about half of the M's wins. But heck, Kevin Correia looks like Greg Maddux right now and Anibal Sanchez damn near threw a no hitter the other day, so strange things are happening across the league. Let's take a closer look at Pineda's advanced stats to see if there are indicators that he might fall to Earth a bit in the future.

Now, 25.1 innings is a tiny sample size, so we can't draw any conclusions, but we can understand where he has been helped a bit by the luck dragon and where he is doing well all on his own merit.

Pineda had a strikeout-per-9 (K/9) rate of 8.8 over 400+ minor league innings, including a K rate of 11.0 in 62.1 of AAA innings last season. His K/9 right now sits at 7.46, which I actually think is just about perfect for two reasons. One, it's not other-worldly, so it doesn't suggest that a big regression is coming - he's being effective without performing at an unsustainable rate as far as his expected strikeouts go.  Second, a K/9 rate of 7.5 is just pretty darn good - so just being objective, you can check the "good" box.

His walk rate (BB/9) was something that was supposed to be a real strength for Pineda as he rarely issued free passes in the minors with a BB/9 rate right around 2 over his 5 seasons but inching up to about 2.4 over his two seasons at AA and AAA. Over his four starts thus far, it stands at 3.20 BB/9 which isn't terrible.

But I worry about two things related to his walks: His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .253. In AAA it was .290 and in AA it was .306.  League average is right around .300. Yes, better pitchers can have BABIP's in the mid .200's but it takes a lot of luck and some really special stuff to pull it off (for reference, Felix Hernandez's BABIP in his Cy Young season was .263). As his BABIP starts to regress towards the league average, he'll be allowing more baserunners simply because of dumb luck. Secondly, I'm sure there's some research out there that can lend some actual evidence to this, but relative unknown pitchers typically have an advantage over hitters.  As hitters start to become more familiar with Pineda and his repertoire it stands to reason that he may start giving up a few more hits. This is why I'd like to see that BB/9 get under control and down into the 2.l0-2.20 per 9 range.

Another thing to watch is this: Right now, he's giving up about 50% fly balls and he's yet to give up a home run.  This has a lot to do with why his ERA is 1.78 and his xFIP is 3.99. xFIP is expected fielding independent pitching, which is represented similar to an ERA, but it tries to control for the luck factor. It tends to shed light on whether or not a pitcher is under or over performing the actual on-field performance, or something like that. He's going to give up some longballs. Yeah, he pitches at Safeco which will help, but if he struggles versus anyone it's lefties and Safeco is actually pretty HR-neutral for left handed batters. So it's going to happen, and when it does, all his sparkling stats are going to be dulled a bit.

But, and this is the big finale... he has the fastest average fastball of any starter in baseball right now. And it's really not even close at all:

Pineda: 96.1
Price: 94.5
Ogando: 94.2
J. Johnson: 94
Verlander: 93.8

And consider that there's a lot of concrete evidence that pitchers throw harder as the season wears on (a lot of that has to do with the weather). He has been pretty much 60% fastball and 30% curveball all year and it's producing a whopping 13.1% swinging strike rate, good for 3rd in all of baseball. His fastball has just been electric and incredibly tough to hit. As long as that holds up, he's going to be very, very good.

So, in sum. Michael Pineda is pretty friggin good. He's been downright dominant so far. He has some work to do with his walks. He is probably not going to have a 1.78 ERA at the end of the season. But he is really making the Mariners look pretty good for letting him start the year in the bigs, and he's a huge piece of any optimism about the Mariners future.

Go M's.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Erik Bedard's First Start of the Season

There aren't a whole lot of players that could call 5 IP, 4H, 3 ER, 2BB, and 3 SO a success, but in my book, for Erik Bedard to toe the rubber in Arlington and throw 95 pitches without having body parts fly off into the Texas sky is a big success. That he managed to actually compete well vs. the major league equivalent of the Gas-House-Gorillas, all the better. Honestly, it was just nice to see Erik Bedard on the hill again, and I thought he actually pitched pretty well.

His fastball averaged right around 90 last night.  His average fastball in years past has been around 91 to 92. There's evidence that suggests pitchers throw harder as the season wears on, so being just a tick below your career average fastball this early is a good thing. For Erik Bedard, coming off shoulder surgery, it's an even better thing - because this suggests he's throwing easily and ostensibly pain free.

Watching the game, I couldn't help feel that he was getting a little squeezed, but I figured that's because A) I'm a Mariner fan and B) I've rather staked my shaky reputation on Bedard returning to form this year.  Looking at Pitch F/X data, he didn't get some close calls, but he also got a couple called strikes that shouldn't have gone his way either. Overall, I can't say he got screwed, but the zone was pretty tight last night:
image from a totally rad site

His location wasn't great, and in particular, he was leaving too many pitches up in the zone in the Rangers' wheelhouse. While the pitch f/x data isn't 100% ironclad with the pitch type, you can get a feeling for what I'm saying by looking at the results of his cut fastball:

That's a lot of meatballs and at 89.7 mph, you really can't get away with that too long vs. a very good hitting team.  He only gave up 4 hits, but two of them went a really, really long way.

You'd have to expect Bedard to need a few starts to dial in that "feel" again, so I imagine you'll see more than one post about his speed and location, but here's hoping that the results improve with each outing.

But Bedard pitched well, and for the Mariners to try and compete at all this year, he's going to have to do that a lot.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ichiro's Odd Inning

The Mariners kicked off the 2011 season on the right foot yesterday, defeating the A's 6-2.  While you can't take away much from game 1 of 162, it was nice to see Smoak rip a double, Figgins and Olivo looked great at the plate and Mr. OBP, Jack Cust, walked three times.  The superstars delivered as well, with Felix going all nine innings and Ichiro adding a pair of stolen bases to his two hits and a walk. 

One of the more interesting innings was the top of the 6th.  It featured two odd decisions from Ichiro.  Here's a link to the official play-by-play.  At first glance it looks pretty straight forward:
-Walk by Brendan Ryan
-Sac bunt by Jack Wilson
-Ichiro single to left field, scoring Ryan
-Figgins HR to left
-Bradley K looking

A great job of small ball by Ryan and Wilson put Ryan on second base with only one out.  Ichrio stepped to the plate and did something nobody expected.  He tried to bunt down the third base line.  Luckily it went foul.  But it's hard to imagine what he was thinking at that moment.  A base hit gets in a run.  Best case scenario a perfect bunt puts runners on the corners.  Ichiro needs to be a run producer in this lineup.  He did just that on the next pitch, slapping a Breslow pitch into left field, scoring Ryan on a close play at the plate.

With Figgins at the dish, and two stolen bases under his belt already, Ichiro looked unsure of himself at first base with the lefty Breslow on the hill.  He repeatedly guessed wrong and took his lead back to first base when Breslow was actually going to the plate.  I thought to myself, "well, he has to stay put here because otherwise he's just guessing."  He didn't and was picked off trying to steal.  Don't get me wrong, I want Ichiro to run wild this year.  I'd love to see 40+ stolen bases.  But when you can't read a pitcher's move to first base and your SB attempt is reduced to pure guesswork, it might be wise to stay put and see what Figgins can do at the plate unless he is facing a full count. 

The good news is that Figgins hit a rocket into the left field stands, Felix was great and the rest is history.  It may be VERY early, but 1-0 still feels pretty good. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy Opening Day and Fearless Seattle Mariner Predictions

I'll call today the real opening day for two reasons:  One, because our beloved Mariners finally take the field of course.  Two, because MLB just doesn't know how to throw a party, and they do this every year, scheduling just a handful of games to roll out the season.

Don't get me wrong, yesterday was exciting, but just not "dazzling" in the way that it could be, uniting baseball fans across the nation(s). And despite the fact that the M's are projected by most prognosticators to finish last in the division, it's still an exciting day.  I'm excited. Are you excited? I know you are.

So with all this excitement welling up in my cockles - even the sub-cockles - I give to you my fearless Seattle Mariner Predictions:

Standings: Mariners will finish 1st in the division, that's right, FIRST - but with just 85 wins. All AL West teams struggle to stay over .500 and no single team has a strangle hold on the division until the last week of the season.  Texas becomes the 1996 version of the Seattle Mariners where they're all bat, no pitch, and while they get chicks all aflutter with the longball, Texas winds up leading the league in runs allowed. Anaheim can't complete the Scott Kazmir reclamation project and Fernando Rodney is out as closer by mid-year due to his Bobby Ayala impersonation. Jered Weaver and Dan Haren both are dominant, but their secondary pitching options just don't materialize and injuries to Toriiiiiii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Kendrys Morales are too difficult to overcome. The Athletics actually finish 2nd and I don't want to talk about them any more than I have to.

Eric Bedard wins comeback player of the year, managing 28 starts, winning 14 of them, and having an ERA just north of 3.  He signs multi-year contract with Yankees in the offseason (ahem...sorry).

Felix Hernandez goes on to win 18 games but is bested by Justin Verlander in the Cy Young voting.

Justin Smoak will post a line of .268/28/84 and there will be much rejoicing. He finally shows more than just flashes of that on-base percentage and power machine that everyone was hoping for, and he plays a plus defense at first as well, all adding up to a 4 wins above replacement season.  Girls in the right field bleachers called "Smoakies" come dressed as cigarettes with his number on the filter and the Safeco staff has their first family-friendly controversy on their hand.

Chone Figgins will hit .296 with 85 runs scored and steal 41 bases, play great defense at 3rd, and make everyone happy he'll be around for two more years.

Milton Bradley will play in 142 games, batting .278 with 19 HR and 82 RBI. There's not a single off-field incident to report, although he is thrown out of two games and actually suspended for three for making fun of Tim Tschida's man-boobs.

Adam Moore will emerge as the preferred catcher by the end of May, ultimately hitting .265 with 14 HR and 52 RBI and the M's are fielding offers for Miguel Olivo at the deadline.

Jack Cust will be Jack Cust, and benefit nicely from the right field at SafeCo and post a .245/26/85 line despite striking out 38% of the time.

David Aardsma returns from hip surgery to save 30 games.

Tom Wilhelmsen is lights-out and sells the rights to Warner Bros. to make a movie out of his life for $3 million. Charlie Sheen asks to play Wilhelmsen, but is turned down.

Ichiro has his first season batting under .300, but makes up for it by hitting 18 home runs and stealing 35 bases.

Lastly, Eric Wedge shaves his mustache, honoring the wager that if the Mariners win the division, he'll get rid of that ugly thing.  Ichiro does the honors.  When the Mariners lose in the ALDS to the Twins, everyone will cite the lucky mustache.

Here we go, folks.  Go Mariners.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seattle Mariners Spring Update

I'm all therapy'd up and ready to roll
So our beloved Mariners are now 13-7, the bats have started to rattle a bit, and the pitching staff is starting to come together. I don't know about you, but this has been the fastest Spring Training in recent memory - perhaps that's just because I'm so busy. But damn if these M's don't look like they're ready to not lose 90-plus games again! Hopefully those aren't the words that Wedge uses to inspire. 

Anyway, with that in mind, let's take a quick peek at what we have headed into the final stretch before the big April Fools Day where Felix shuts down the Athletics.

  • Ichiro: Awesome
  • Figgins, hitting .361 with a pair of doubles, 7 RBI and 4 stolen bases.  
  • Bradley, hitting .355 with a home run, 10 RBI, 4 doubles, and only 6 strikeouts in 31 AB's.
  • Cust, hitting .255 with 3 HR's, 9 RBI and a whopping 19 K's in 47 AB's.  Yep, that's about what we expected.
  • Adam Moore, .381 with two doubles, a triple, and 7 walks in 21 AB's. This is encouraging.

On the pitching side:
  • Jamey Wright has unfortunately been impossible to hit, so he probably makes the team
  • Josh Lueke has been very, very good - likely makes the team
  • Vargas and Fister both still oddly effective in their how-did-they-do-that way
  • Bedard appears really ready to go with a 1.69 ERA over 10 2/3 IP with 10K's and 3 BB.  Please oh please give us half a season to trade you, Erik.  
  • Laffey has zero strikeouts over 6 IP since coming over from Cleveland. I don't know about you, but I want the M's to trade for Kevin Slowey so we can have Laffey and Slowey on the same team.  We could market some kind of Mariner Smurf bobblehead "Laffey Smurf" "Slowey Smurf" "Figgy Smurf" "Grumpy Smurf" (Bradley, of course). And the two smurfs that nobody wants to party with, "Fister Smurf" and "Frenchy Smurf".
  • Luke French and David Pauley are battling for the best AAAA starter in camp, with Frenchy currently leading 1.13 ERA to 1.29.

Oh, and you've likely read that Jack Wilson moves to 2B and Ryan is our starting SS. Look for that tandem to turn some sweet double plays and combine for 6 HR's. One wonders if having Wilson at 2B provides the team a nice excuse to rush Ackley once Wilson goes down with a (insert body part) injury in May. We'll see.

Watch what happens on the whole Ring, Wilhelmsen, Delcarmen front... that ought to be an interesting narrative down the stretch here.  Geoff Baker has a pretty good rundown of the complexities of roster building for the M's right now relative to who has options, who is on the 40-man roster, etc.

Go M's.